WARNER, Okla. – In August, Connors State College opened the doors to its Native American Success and Cultural Center that features Native American art, a computer lab, language repository and study group rooms for students, faculty, staff and the public.
The center is part of a Title III grant program that Connors received in 2014.
“This was a $5 million dollar grant spread over five years. This particular one has two focus areas. It has the Native American Success Center area, and it also has another focus for online hybrid course development,” Gwen Rodgers, Connors Title III project director, said.
Rodgers said Connors developed a “pride model” to help Native students with retention, help them learn about their respective cultures and be “inclusive” of all cultures.
“The center is open to anybody. It is not exclusive to Native Americans. There’s a rumor going around that only Native American students can utilize the center, and we’re trying to dispel that,” Colleen Noble, NASCC director, said. “We want students, the public, faculty, staff to feel comfortable to come and learn about the history, culture, literature, artwork of the Five Civilized Tribes. That’s our focus. We are reaching out to school districts for them to come and be a part of field trips.”
The Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw and Seminole nations were labeled as the Five Civilized Tribes.
Noble said in the center’s cultural section artwork is featured with a majority of it being Cherokee, but it also has Muscogee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Pawnee and Osage artwork. For the grant’s remainder, NASCC officials plan to acquire more art pieces from the Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee tribes in Oklahoma.
The center also offers cultural activities throughout the year by inviting presenters from different tribes to teach classes such as basket making and moccasin making.
Noble said Connors has a high population of Native American students, and the center is a “stop gap” for them to learn more about their respective cultures and heritages without having to travel to places such as Tulsa, Tahlequah and Muskogee to visit museums.
“We are currently 38 percent Native American students, which is a really good percentage for this area. We are one of the highest Native American populations for the state of Oklahoma for a higher learning institute. The biggest percentage of our students are Cherokee. We have over 900 students who are Native American and out of that over 600 are Cherokee,” Noble said. “We’re able to partner with Cherokee Nation and bring in some really wonderful cultural experts to share their knowledge and skills with our students.”
In the NASCC’s success center section, students learn styles in audio, visual and kinesthetic areas. Kinesthetic learning or tactile learning is where students learn by carrying out physical activities rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.
Noble said the computers labs have headphones, study rooms have marker and art boards and students can utilize a “spinning chair” to de-stress and re-focus on college studies.
“It is a five-year grant, but it is developed and designed for continuation so that at the end of the five years this doesn’t all stop. It’s institutionalized throughout so that everything we’re doing now will keep going. So Connors will just be stronger because of it. We’re excited to be a part of it,” Rodgers said.
For more information, visit connorsstate.edu
or call 918-463-6364.